Tuesday 15 March 2011

The bikelash has arrived!

Over in New York, there's a fantastic power struggle going on, as important politicians fight troublemaking cyclists, to try and get a segregated bike path removed. There's a good summary online, by the economist John Cassidy. Sadly he, gets criticised not just by the usual activists, but by other economists. That worries us. If the people we trust to run the banks and get the global economy out of the mess the banks and the economists got it into can't even agree on how bad bicycles are for a city, well, it's not a good start. How can they come with a plan for the global economy that works if they can't even agree that bicycles and pedestrians don't belong in modern cities.

Here in Bristol, Cllr Gollop is one person who has taken a public stance, denouncing the Cycling City program for spending money, not increasing the number of cyclists they promised, and for taking away road space from us, the important people.:
"The Cycling City initiative brought in match-funding which has delivered new cycling routes but these have largely been achieved at the expense of the majority of road users - by reducing road space or capacity.

This is why Cllr -soon to be Mayor- Gollop is in the lead for the 2010 Bristol Traffic "councillor of the year" award. He's our kind of councillor.

Some of the cycling troublemakers have been asking "where are all the bits of road that Cllr Glossop said had been taken away for bicycles". That's tough -we had to nip out and get one of those cycle bristol maps and do some research.
  1. Bike lanes? Same as ever: short stay parking.
  2. Keep clear zones at school? Same as ever, though some yellow lines are going in -lines we can't blame on the bicycles.
  3. The Kingsdown RPZ? The locals voted it for it so they'd have the opportunity to park after going for a drive. Selfish actions by inner city troublemakers, but not cycling-city work.
  4. Bike Parking? Yes, this has taken space away, something to cover later.
  5. 20 mph zones? A topic for another day.
What about the dedicated routes? In the city, the Farm Pub Path (tm) and the Eastville Park to UWE route all go through parks. We'd like roads there, so you could say it's a wasted opportunity, but it's not really taking up space. For economists, that's "opportunity cost", what you could have done with the money instead. Still, every segregated bike path is a bus route in waiting, as we and West of England Partnership say. As for the Hartcliffe way route -we've found that provides extra parking.

It seems to us, the things that have got worse over the cycling city timescale then are
  • The removal of paveparking opportunities
  • The 20 mph zone
  • The increased cost of driving
  • The showcase bus routes.
None of the cycling facilities have directly taken away any roadspace from cars.

What then was Cllr Glossop trying to say -what did he really mean? He meant this
To us, the important people of the city, the Cycling City program is a failure because the number of people on bicycles and hence in our way has increased.

It doesn't matter that no direct road space has been taken away in the inner city apart from eight paid parking spaces --the mere presence of bicycles slows us down. The fact that these people pay nothing while the cost of driving continually increases makes us even more angry.
This is of course the Daily Mail commenter line, but everyone is afraid to come out and say it. Not us, not John Cassidy -and not a lot of Evening Post commenters, but they don't make the proper economic argument. We shall.

Every bicycle holds up traffic, so while the private costs of a bicycle are low, the external cost is high. A bicycle occupying a whole lane takes up as much space as a car -and because it's going at half the speed, it slows down the cars behind it more than a single car would. The congestion cost of a bicycle is therefore higher than that of a motor car!

That's the real issue with the Cycling City. Not the infrastructure, not just the parking -taking away our pavements. It's the increase in bicycles on what the cycle planners call the key cycle routes to the city, but for which we have a different name: the main roads.

We've been saying this since 2008. Us, on our own, sometimes with help a couple of times a week from the niche papers the Evening Post and the Daily Mail. The BBC, they're on our side with Top Gear, but that's relegated to BBC2 now, and in their news broadcasts they don't often have people that speak our language. Even the AA, the RAC and the Association of British Drivers don't come out and spell out the real costs that cycling imposes on our city. As far as politics goes, we have Glossop and the Ministers Hammond and Pickles on our side -but the only party that wants to ban bicycles from important roads was the UK Independence Party. Nobody else speaks our language.

This is changing. Welcome to the bikelash.

[For anyone wishing to congratulate the councillor, his contact details are online. Why not email him and congratulate him for being on our side!]

1 comment:

Rhode Long said...

You are missing an important point. Actually bicycles hold up vehicles multiple times and not just the once.

For instance this morning, I had to overtake the very same tax dodger on a bike 5 times in my Range Rover but they cheekily went ahead of me as I had to keep stopping due to traffic jams (other vehicles in my way, not that I feel part of the problem).

In the end the cheeky bugger nipped onto a pavement (well, shared use bicycle lane but it looked like a pavement) and he got to his destination before me.

This constant overtaking of the same bikes is dangerous and stressful for the poor motorist and I suspect the cyclists are laughing.

Cllr Gollop gets my vote, even if his spatial awareness is slightly off.